There’s good and weird news coming out of Maple Valley. Folks have been waiting for months to hear about the suit that was brought against Shorty Cloverton and several members of the town council including Sheriff Pete Terkinberry and Mayor Alvin Thrashborn.
For those who may not know, which, not ever wandering very far from Maple Valley, I honestly don’t know how that’s possible. But, last fall, a woman named Madeline Overweist stepped out of the Ya’ll Sit Cafe, walked a few steps, and a bat landed on her face. Mrs. Overweist, a visitor to Maple Valley who had come to town on The General, did not survive the shock.
Several weeks passed after the incident. Shorty Cloverton, owner of the cafe, was surprised by a stranger who gave him a large envelope from attorneys Skellson & Skellson. The family of Mrs. Overweist brought a suit against the town council and everyone on the BAT Strategic Health Investigation Team. The papers said all of them were at fault because they knew there were bats in Maple Valley.
The defendants almost didn’t make it beyond the depositions. Quintin O’Dillmotte could have been a witness for Skellson. He kept saying too much when he was answering questions.
“Mr. O’Dillmotte, tell us, what is your responsibility as a member of the BAT Strategic Health Investigation Team?” Mr. Skellson asked.
“Please, sir, call me Quintin.”
“Ok, Quintin, thank you. Would you like me to repeat the question?”
“No, I can tell you. I’ll be honest, I told everyone we have a serious bat problem and it’s going to be a sad day in Maple Valley when someone is attacked by one of these vicious creatures.”
“Quintin!!” hollered defense attorney, Kelso Mackverd. “Just answer the question, and nothing more!”
Quintin continued, “I have been on the BAT team for seven years. During that time we have literally done nothing to alleviate the bat problem in Maple Valley.”
“Quintin!! Stop!” demanded Mackverd. “Can we take a quick break?” he asked.
“Yes,” answered Skellson.
When the process resumed, Quintin looked like a scolded school boy. From then on he said little more than “Affirmative”, or “Negative”.
To everyone’s surprise, the judge in the case dismissed the suit. He said, in spite of the tragic events, no one could have known, under any circumstances, what an individual bat would do at any time. Complete control is impossible. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
The other news involves Sylvia Meisner, who has been missing for more than a year. Sheriff Pete received a phone call in the middle of the night. The female voice said, “What is wrong with you people? You can’t see the forest for the trees. Your answer is right under your nose.”
“Who is this?” Pete asked. The caller hung up. He spent the next two hours sitting on the side of his bed, going through scenarios in his mind of what the call might mean. Was it Sylvia? How could it be? If it was Sylvia, where has she been, and why? If it wasn’t Sylvia, who was it and what did she mean the answer is right under our nose?
At daylight, Pete called Alvin and told him about the call.
“The answer is right under our nose?” Alvin asked.
“That’s what she said.”
“Did you recognize the voice? Did it sound like Sylvia?” Alvin asked.
“She did, a little bit. Or maybe I just wanted her to sound like Sylvia,” Pete answered.
“This is so crazy. First don’t stop looking, now this,” Alvin said.
“Listen,” Pete said, “don’t tell anyone about this, especially Quintin. Don’t tell anyone. I want to wait and see if anything else happens in the next few days.”
“Right, right. No, I won’t tell Quintin, or anyone else,” Alvin said, thinking about who he could tell first.
“Alvin, please, I’m telling you as the sheriff. Don’t tell anyone. I mean it. I could actually charge you if it gets back to me that you talked about this.”
“What do you mean, charge me?” Alvin asked loudly.
“I could charge you with hindering an investigation,” Pete answered.
“You would do that?!” Alvin asked.
“I’m going to tell you again. Do not tell anyone about the call,” the sheriff said.
“Pete, you worry to much.”
“Alvin!! Are you listening to me?!”
“I hear you, Pete. Come on, we’re friends.”
“Yes, we’re friends, and I’m the sheriff, and I’m still investigating the disappearance of Sylvia Meisner. Don’t mess this up!!”
“Thanks a lot,” Alvin said.
“I’m just trying my best to find Sylvia or find out what happened to her. This is driving me crazy. I think I might be getting somewhere and then I end up no where. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. If it was Sylvia who called me, why wouldn’t she tell me? She has to know we’re looking for her. Why wouldn’t she just say, ‘This is Sylvia, Pete, how are you?’ Sometimes I feel like giving up. But, somehow, some way, I have to find her,” Pete said. “Do you know what I mean, Alvin?”
“Alvin? Alvin, are you still there?”